7 Points of Pride for Penn State Academically

Re-posted from Alumni Insider, a Penn State Alumni Association Publication

Original Article

7 Academic Points of Pride for Penn State
Many alumni have been asking for reference points about Penn State’s academic quality. Across the University, there are numerous examples of top-ranked programs, individual professors cited as the best in their field and examples where Penn State is leading the way, from aerospace engineering to turf-grass management. In fact, there are too many to list, so here are the seven academic points of pride I’ve been talking about lately.

Penn State is 9th in the country in research expenditures.

The best measuring stick of a University’s prowess is the annual assessment by the National Science Foundation of “Total Research-and-Development Expenditures for Science and Engineering.” For the 2009 fiscal year, Penn State finished 9th in the nation among all private and public universities. Penn State’s total research expenditures in FY 2009 amounted to $753 million. 

These rankings, published in the August 26, 2011, issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, are the most recently published indicators of research prowess among American universities.

The top 10 universities:

1. Johns Hopkins, $1.856 billion
2. Michigan, $1.007 billion
3. Wisconsin, $952 million
4. UC/San Francisco, $948 million
5. UCLA, $890 million
6. UC/San Diego, $879 million
7.Duke, $805 million
8. Washington, $778 million
9. PENN STATE, $753 million
10. Minnesota, $741 million
Penn State ranks within the top 1 percent of all higher education institutions worldwide.

Penn State has been recognized even more widely for its academic prowess on the global stage. Where a quarter century ago the goal was to move into the circle of the nation’s top ten public research universities, we are now being seen as one of the best universities in the world. In this most recent study released in October 2011, The Times Higher Education World University Rankings ranked the top 400 universities worldwide. Its table of the top 200 “represents approximately the top 1 percent [of 20,000] higher education institutions worldwide,” said Phil Baty, editor of the rankings. “To do so, a university must score highly across our full range of indicators, and indeed Penn State performed consistently impressively throughout.”

Penn State was ranked 51st in the world—a ranking placing it nearly in the top quarter of the top 1 percent of universities worldwide. Big Ten universities did very well overall:

9. Chicago 18. Michigan
26. Northwestern
27. Wisconsin
31. Illinois
42. Minnesota
51. PENN STATE
57. Ohio State
96. Michigan State
98. Purdue
Penn State ranks as the 20th best university in the world.

A year ago, a different study ranked Penn State 20th among the top 500 universities worldwide, according to “High Impact Universities 2010,” a study compiled by researchers at the University of Western Australia. Big Ten universities again fared well:

6. Michigan
12. Minnesota

15. Chicago
18. Wisconsin
20. PENN STATE
24. Northwestern
32. Ohio State
41. Michigan State
64. Iowa
69. Indiana
74. Purdue
105. Illinois
Penn State ranks No. 1 nationally in Fulbright Scholars.

One of the best indicators of an institution’s global standing is the number of faculty members who, through competitive selection, win Fulbright Faculty Scholarships to study, teach or do research in other countries. The Fulbright program was founded shortly after World War II by Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas to increase international understanding through academic exchange. It remains the largest and most prestigious such program in the world.

During the years, Penn State faculty have done well in securing Fulbright Fellowships. This year, the 2011–12 academic year, we are No. 1 in the nation with 14 Fulbright Scholars on our faculty. The top universities and the number of Fulbright Scholars for 2011–12:

1. PENN STATE, 14
2. Kansas, 9
3. Arizona State, 8
4. New York University, 8
5. Indiana, 7
6. Southern Illinois, 7
7. Cincinnati, 7
8. Florida, 7
9. Arizona, 6
10. Minnesota, 6
32 of Penn State’s doctoral programs ranked in the top 10 percent of programs in their fields.

The evaluative exercise that had all of American academe abuzz a year ago was the study by the National Research Council, an arm of the National Science Foundation. This long-anticipated study assesses the relative strength of doctoral programs only. The last such NRC study was conducted in 1995 and the one before that in 1982, so these assessments aren’t undertaken frequently. Nor lightly. The 2010 study is not the usual straight-out reputational survey. It is much more complex and nuanced. But the bottom line is that Penn State’s rankings are extremely strong across the board, adding further evidence to the University’s rise in stature as one of the world’s best research universities.

According to the NRC’s 2010 assessment of U.S. doctoral programs, these Penn State programs ranked in the top 10 percent:
Anthropology; Plant Biology; Kinesiology; Spanish; Nutrition; Astronomy and Astrophysics; Entomology; Political Science; Sociology; Biology; Food Science; Environmental Engineering; French; Meteorology; Physics; Geography; Statistics; Demography; Mathematics; Comparative Literature; Philosophy; Industrial Engineering; Materials Science & Engineering; Communications Arts & Sciences; Plant Pathology; Geosciences; Chemistry; Computer Science and Engineering; BiocheElectrical Engineering; Bicohemistry, Microbiology and Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology; Human Development and Family Studies.

Penn State ranks No. 1 by recruiters for college graduates who are best suited for the world of work.

In September 2010, The Wall Street Journal published the results of a survey of top corporate recruiting managers in an article titled “Penn State Tops Recruiter Rankings.” The WSJ quoted one recruiter as saying Penn State graduates are “Bright, well-rounded students … with the core competencies we desire.”

The top 10 universities:

1. PENN STATE
2. Texas A&M
3. University of Illinois
4. Purdue
5. Arizona State
6. University of Michigan
7. Georgia Tech
8. Maryland
9. Florida
10. Carnegie Mellon
Penn State Football Ranked No. 1 in Academic BCS

LSU may be ranked No. 1 on the gridiron but Penn State is No. 1 academically, according to the 5th Annual Academic Bowl Championship Series rankings. The rankings come from New America Foundation’s Higher Ed Watch, which takes the final 2011 BCS standings and re-ranks them on team graduation rates and academic progress rates (an NCAA measure of academic success), as compared to the performance of the general student body. According to the analysis, 80 percent of Penn State football players graduate in six years or less (that number jumps to 87 percent if you don’t include players who transfer or leave college to play professionally) and there is no difference in graduation rates between black and white Penn State players—which unfortunately is not true at other universities.

The final rankings are:

1. PENN STATE, 117 points
2. Boise State, 107
3. TCU, 101
4. Stanford, 100
5. Alabama, 78.7
6. West Virginia, 75.7
7. Georgia, 72.3
8. Southern Miss, 69.3
9. Kansas State, 68.7
10. Nebraska, 64
11. Clemson, 63.7
12. Wisconsin, 60.7
13. LSU. 61.3
14. Virginia Tech, 58.7
15. Oklahoma State, 47.3
16. Oregon, 47
17. Oklahoma, 43
18. Baylor, 41
19. Texas, 37.3
20. South Carolina, 36
21. Auburn, 35.3
22. Michigan, 31
23. Houston, 30
24. Michigan State, 23
25. Arkansas, 20.7
So, Penn State Alumni Association members, there you have it. You are now armed with a few facts about Penn State’s sterling—and unchanged—academic credentials. Go forth and share the true story of Penn State’s stature as one of the greatest academic institutions on the face of the earth.

For the Glory,

Roger L. Williams ’73, ’75g, ’88g
Executive Director